Illusion in Thrillers

The word illusion is defined as something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality.  It should come as no surprise to readers of mysteries and thrillers that writers often use illusion to steer the reader down many different paths where only one leads to the villain.  Examples could be something as simple as a single line of dialogue, where a character says something that seems peculiar or even slightly incriminating, or as complex as an entire side plot used to distract and nudge you to the left while the killer just ran right.  This is done to build suspense and a subtle feeling of puzzlement, forcing you to become more engaged in the story and hopefully more satisfied by the end.

The last thing the reader or the writer wants in a mystery is for the answer to be obvious, or in plain sight.  If you manage to figure out who done it, then all the pieces of misinformation the author sprinkled throughout the story will only heighten your feeling of accomplishment.  And if you didn’t figure it out, well then hopefully you were at the very least surprised by the result, which in many cases is even more exciting, assuming the writer played by the rules and didn’t just pull a rabbit out of his hat.

In the case of my novel, The Gift of Illusion, the reader is aware much sooner than any of the characters that something paranormal is at work because they are a witness to the villain entering this world from the spiritual world.  The villain itself then becomes the illusion, moving from person to person making it difficult to track.  One moment Lead Detective Isaac Winters is sure he has everything figured out, the next he’s shaking his head in disbelief.  As he tells his partner at one point in the story, “It’s almost like we’re tracking a parasite that’s somehow intelligent enough to choose a new host whenever it wants.”

The exact origin of the villain remains a mystery for most of the story, but once it is revealed and you begin to learn more and more about the his disturbing past, the illusion is gone and a whole new series of questions present themselves.  The most difficult for Detective Winters to answer; how do you destroy this villain without also destroying the innocent person it has possessed?  Many would argue it’s worth risking one person’s life for many others to live.  It’s the only way.  The right answer.  But what if the person in question is your child?

How far would you go to find another way?


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